The following letter to the Detroit Mercy community from University President Antoine M. Garibaldi was sent Aug. 16.
Dear University of Detroit Mercy students, faculty, staff and alumni:
I hope you have had a wonderful summer! As we begin the 2021-22 academic year, I write to tell you that earlier this morning at our annual President’s Convocation, I announced that this will be my final year as president of University of Detroit Mercy. This is a decision to which I have given much consideration. When I renewed my last contract more than four years ago, the Board of Trustees gave me the opportunity to decide how long I wanted to serve as president. That began my discernment about a planned succession, and I determined that an ideal time would be through June 30, 2022. We have accomplished much together over the last 10 years and two months, and I am energized to achieve even more of our goals over the next 10 months when a successor begins. I will take a sabbatical during the 2022-23 academic year and return to Detroit Mercy as a tenured professor to continue my career-long interests in research, teaching and scholarship.
Ten years ago, when I gave my first remarks to the faculty and staff at the Aug. 16, 2011, President’s Convocation, I referenced the research of organizational theorist Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great, and talked about the importance of University of Detroit Mercy and the other more than 4,000 higher education institutions becoming more than just “good” and advancing themselves to a status of “great” if they expected to survive. At our summer 2011 convocation, I presented a framework of “Advancing from Good to Great.” I indicated that Detroit Mercy had already established itself as “good” in many ways – “excellent faculty and staff, very talented students, outstanding alumni, a national and regional reputation, a strong Jesuit and Mercy mission and more.” But I also said that “we can become even better and advance from good to great with some prospective thinking and aggressive work on our part to accomplish several bold goals over the next three to five years.” Those goals were:
- Strategic planning;
- Increasing enrollment, retention and graduation rates;
- Increasing fundraising and building the endowment;
- Expanding our engagement and partnerships with the community; and,
- Continuing to strengthen the University’s Mission and Identity.
Together, we have made excellent progress on all of those goals over the past decade; and I will highlight some of them here.
- The University’s Strategic Planning Committee diligently began its work that August and met with colleagues across the three campuses through the fall and spring semesters and completed a draft Five-Year Plan by April 2012, which was approved by the Board of Trustees that summer. That initial plan and our current five-year plan, Boundlessly Forward: Detroit Mercy 2019-2024, have been the guideposts for our achievements and aspirations.
- With respect to increasing enrollment, retention and graduation rates, we have made major advances in each of those areas through significant changes in how we recruit and retain students, provide financial and academic support to them so they can enroll and be successful, and receive employment and attend graduate and professional school at high rates. In 2011, we had a first-year class of 465. Over the last several years, our freshmen classes have averaged around 525 students. In a few weeks, we are anticipating a first-year class of more than 570 students, the largest class in 12 years. These enrollment increases are the result of many innovations and changes made by the Admissions office over the last eight years, as well as specific programs we designed to attract more students, such as: the establishment of the University of Detroit Mercy Catholic Education Grant in 2014; the 2016 rebranding campaign Build a Boundless Future; the 2017 Assure Your Boundless Future Tuition Reset when we reset undergraduate tuition from $41,000 to $28,000; the 2019 Graduate Tuition Reset in Business, Engineering, Architecture and Nursing and several first-ever institutional federal grants, including the Strengthening Institutions Program, Student Support Services, Upward Bound, The Science and Engineering Equity Development (SEED) program, ReBUILDetroit and many others that have increased enrollment in numerous academic fields.
In summer 2011, the University’s endowment was a modest $25.9 million. Planning for a feasibility study and a major campaign began immediately. Despite an external analysis and recommendation that the University could achieve a campaign goal between $40 and $60 million, a $100-million goal was set and achieved one year early in December 2019. At the conclusion of this Build a Boundless Future: The Campaign for University of Detroit Mercy, the final amount raised was $114.6 million – the highest in the University’s history. Many of our alumni responded overwhelmingly to the campaign with more than three-fourths of the gifts coming from alumni, including more than 33 gifts of $1 million or more. Today’s endowment is nearly $94 million – a 360% increase since 2011. Because of the generosity of alumni and the current bridge campaign, an endowment of $100 million is achievable and not far away.
With regard to the goal of “expanding the University’s engagement and partnerships with the community,” Detroit Mercy’s service and relationships with the community have increased and expanded through every one of the seven academic schools and colleges’ multitude of clinics and service-based efforts by its students, faculty, staff and alumni. Moreover, our students have also created programs that assist children, youth and adults in the surrounding neighborhood. And our 27-year old Detroit Collaborative Design Center in the School of Architecture + Community Development continues to make significant contributions to neighborhoods across the city and the country. As our 2021 Economic Impact Brochure indicates, Detroit Mercy’s collaborations and specific initiatives are numerous. Of particular personal interest is the co-founding of Live6 Alliance with The Kresge Foundation in 2015. The Kresge Foundation and I held dozens of meetings and discussions over the preceding four years, including during the city’s bankruptcy, before we co-founded this vibrant economic development organization that has become a major neighborhood advocate and resource for residents and businesses in the McNichols Livernois corridor. Live6 is now a 501(c)3 organization that continues to receive financial and in-kind support from Detroit Mercy and I serve as its board chair.
As a Catholic, Jesuit and Mercy University sponsored by the Religious Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and the Society of Jesus, our mission and identity have been amplified on campus by our dual offices of University Ministry and Mission Integration through numerous programs focused on spirituality, discernment and service. Additionally, those offices’ collaborations locally and nationally with the Conference of Mercy Higher Education and the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities have become models for our combined 44 sister-schools.
Over the last decade, our campus infrastructure has also grown tremendously, with a new 40,000-square-foot Fitness Center in September 2012, the April 2017 addition to the College of Health Professions, major renovations to the School of Dentistry and School of Law and acquisition of a new 40,000-square-foot campus in Novi in 2020. In February 2020, we announced our decision to make a $55-million investment to the McNichols Campus facilities that includes major renovations and the expansion of the 66-year old Student Union; demolitions of aging buildings; upgrades to academic buildings, administrative space and residence halls; additional on-campus student apartments and green space; a Center for Excellence in Teaching & Learning and other projects. Those critical infrastructure projects will assist in attracting and retaining more students while also making our facilities more efficient and effective.
Finally, Detroit Mercy continues to be honored with high rankings by U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges” 2021 edition. Last year the University ranked No. 187 among the top 200 national universities in this newly designated category. Only three other Michigan universities earned a place among the 2020 group. Additionally, Detroit Mercy received favorable recognition in the special categories of:
- Best Value Schools, National Universities – No. 34
- Best School for Veterans, National Universities – No. 136
- Top Performers on Social Mobility – No. 129
- A+ Schools for B Students
And Detroit Mercy again ranked among the top 20% of all universities nationwide in The Wall Street Journal’s (WSJ) 2021 Times Higher Education (THE) college rankings. The WSJ/THE ranked Detroit Mercy No. 180 out of almost 1,000 schools in the United States in 2021. The University has been ranked high since the inaugural release in 2017.
We have accomplished the preceding achievements together over the past decade because of your dedication and cooperative spirit. That characteristic Detroit Mercy ethos has been best demonstrated during these last 18 months as we confronted the COVID-19 pandemic. It speaks volumes about who you and we are as a group. Titans Together is an appropriate motto for us during these times. We have much more work and many goals to accomplish this year, and I am counting on your cooperation and assistance. Thank you for your individual and collective contributions that have elevated Detroit Mercy to a great institution!
Antoine M. Garibaldi